WSU sold more than 3,200 tickets to the Sun Bowl, and the Alumni Association's tailgate tent was hopping before the game.

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EL PASO, Texas — Lesa and Brian Cornell like spending special events at Washington State games. The Cornells are season ticket holders, and even though they live in San Diego, Calif. we’ve been to every WSU game this year.

Even though the Sun Bowl’s date – Dec. 26 – posed a challenge for many Cougars fans with families, the Cornells said they never entertained the idea of not coming to El Paso.

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“It was a Christmas present,” said Lesa, a 1982 graduate. “We thought, ‘What is better for Christmas than to go to El Paso. So we left our families behind and came up.”

Coug games will forever hold a special place in their hearts.

On November 2008, Brian proposed to Lesa on the field at Martin Stadium.

“Lesa had the in and got us onto the field before the game and had no idea I had the ring in my pocket,” Brian said.

Brian got down on one knee in front of the student section and popped the question.

“And the students start going, ‘Say yes, say yes,’” Lesa said.

So, of course she said yes.

Paul Leonard and his daughter, Robin, sport Cougar Gold cheesehead hats at the WSU Alumni Association tailgate. The Leonards flew into El Paso, Texas from Seattle for the Sun Bowl. (Stefanie Loh / Seattle Times)
Paul Leonard and his daughter, Robin, sport Cougar Gold cheesehead hats at the WSU Alumni Association tailgate. The Leonards flew into El Paso, Texas from Seattle for the Sun Bowl. (Stefanie Loh / Seattle Times)

WSU said it sold more than 3,200 tickets for the Sun Bowl game against Miami, and a good number of those fans started the day at the alumni association’s tailgate tent.

Robin Schaeperkoetter and Paul Leonard, 1986 WSU grads from Woodinville, took their daughter, Meg, with them and made it a family Christmas trip to El Paso to watch the Cougs and their son, R.C. Leonard, a WSU senior who plays the trumpet in the marching band.

“The whole plane was full of Cougs,” Schaeperkoetter said. “And it wasn’t a charter flight”

Many WSU players also brought large contingents of family members to the game. Kevin and Sarah Molton, the parents of freshman cornerback Darrien Molton, drove a group of six family members 12 hours from their home in Temecula, Calif., while several other family members flew into El Paso.